Racking up Niagara Frontier League cross country championships is fine for most schools, but not in Lockport, where the league's perennial powerhouse is looking ahead towards even bigger and brighter opportunities.
Head coach Bob Eberhardt's Lions and Lady Lions have both finished their NFL seasons 7-0 and are the favorites to repeat as NFL champs at the annual league meet a week from Saturday at Beaver Island.
“I thought that we'd do well in the NFL because our league is not extremely strong and we had a lot of runners coming back,” Eberhardt said. “We're hoping to be competitive on the sectional level and at states in the coming weeks.”
Lockport's boys team, led by returning state participants seniors Mitch Loiacano and Dan Jones, is currently ranked No. 5 in Section VI, behind Clarence, St. Joe's, Sweet Home and Williamsville North (1 through 4 respectively). The Lady Lions are ranked No. 9 in Western New York.
Loiacano, a member of Lockport's XC team since eighth grade, is a two-time winner in league dual meets this year.
“My cousin, Drew Perilli, was on the team four years ago and he just got me into it. I was sort of in between two sports at the time,” said Loiacano, who plans to continue his running career in college. “Mr. (assistant coach Ron) Main also got me into it. It's been a great experience right from the start. I only have a few races left. I wish I could do it all over again.”
Besides Loiacano and Jones, other top Lions harriers this fall include promising freshmen Connor Doran and Adam Perilli. “They're both having an excellent year,” Eberhardt said.
On the girls side, Lady Lions juniors Abbey Lang and Hannah Kurbs are looking to return to states as well. Abbey's been on the team since 7th grade and has been a state participate in each of the last two seasons. Hannah is back for just her second season. Hannah's sister, freshman Sara, is Lockport's third top runner this year in just her first year.
“Last year was my first year as a sophomore. Originally, I played soccer then did track my freshman year and it went really well,” Hannah said. “I made friends and they said, ‘You should do cross country. You'd be really good at it.’ I'm so glad that I did. This team's my family. They push me. We spend a lot of time together and running is real rewarding.”
Kurbs was a fourth-place finisher at the prestigious McQuaid Invitational earlier this season and boasts a top 5K time of 19:15.
“My goals this year are to place at sectionals and go back to states,” she said. “It was really overwhelming last year at states. It was crazy. I kept thinking, ‘I made it to states my first year.’ That was cool.”
Lang, who has three first-place finishes in NFL meets this season, continues to improve each year and hopes to finish at or near the very top in both the league and Section VI races coming up. The top seven VI runners qualify for the state meet.
“My parents wanted me to run because I wasn't that good at soccer,” Abbey said, laughing. “When I realized I was decent, I really started enjoying it.”
Lang said participating at states for the first time two years ago was made more difficult by the fact that she was the lone female representative from Lockport. Last year's state meet was better for two good reasons — she competed with teammate Kurbs and also because it was held at Elma Meadows, a familiar course to Lockport and all other area runners. Abbey placed 58th in the state in Class A in 2012, coming home in 19:32.
Next up, Lockport harriers will compete this Saturday at the Clarence Invitational at Akron Falls Park. The NFL Meet is Saturday, Oct. 26 on Grand Island, followed by the Section VI Meet on Friday, Nov. 1 at Elma Meadows and the state meet on Saturday, Nov. 9, in Queensbury.
In a smart coaching move, Eberhardt had his team compete in a race at Queensbury earlier this season to give his state hopefuls a chance to see the course ahead of time.
“I'm glad we went. I was told it was very easy before we went, but I found out that it was a lot harder than people made it out to be — with two big hills in the middle,” Abbey said. “I'm happy I got a good look at it and I hope to get back there.”
Rounding out the LHS boys cross country roster are seniors John Britt and Matt Buczkowski; juniors Mike Crofts, John DiCarlo, Kirk Feeney, Alex Fogle, Will Grant, Dez Orsolitis and Brandon Trachte; sophomores Burke Geier, Pete Heinrich, Jacob Mauer, Chris Sims, Cole Twomey, Josh Wojcinski and Andrew Zotara; freshmen Dave Arlington, Mark Cye, Max Feeney, Dontay Gill, Brad Straw and Tom Wendt; and eighth graders Dan Fogle, John Lang and Ethan Shaft.
Rounding out the Lady Lions XC roster are seniors Lindsey Ellis, Erin Geier, Allison Hinton and Madeline Loiacano; sophomores Paige Grant, Robyn Hammond and Sara Lesold, freshmen Brenda Bartkowiak, MaKayla Cole, MaryClaire Haseley and Katherine Keleher; and eighth graders Emma Gruber, Caitlin Hall, Gianni Kahle, Maya Moulds, Danielle Ozimek, Ella Swanson and Elizabeth Tran.
Volleyball Lions clinch NFL title
SANBORN — The Lockport High School boys varsity volleyball team improved to 11-0 Thursday and clinched the 2013 Niagara Frontier championship with a straight-set victory at Niagara-Wheatfield.
The scores were 25-14, 25-23, 25-15.
LHS juniors Jason Donorovich and Brad Schneider led head coach Joe Whalen's team early with strong serves, recording seven service aces in the first game alone.
In game two, the Lions' offense seemed to back off on their intensity, even though the passing was pretty solid. Niagara-Wheatfield took advantage of the lull in offense and matched the Lions point for point, near the end the Lions finally ran a few point and won the game narrowly.
“Jeff Wojcinski came off the bench in game two to play a solid back row, serving well and passing well,” Whalen said.
In game three the Lockport squad seemed determined not to repeat the second games' intensity. Lions senior Bryce Perry's punishing attacks helped motivate the team to an easy final game win.
Whalen said his team hopes to remain undefeated as they cap off their regular season on Monday with a match against Kenmore East.
Lockport 1, Ken East 0
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Lockport junior Kim Hamilton booted home the winning goal with just four minutes left in the second overtime Thursday.
With the win, head coach Mike Finnerty's Lady Lions finished their NFL slate undefeated at 13-0-1 and remain undefeated overall at 15-0-1, heading to next week's Section VI Class AA playoffs.
Hamilton's winning tally came on a corner kick. The ball was played over to Hamilton and she drilled a rocket into the top left corner of the net for the win.
Winning keeper junior Jayme Wadosky made nine saves to earn the shutout in goal.
Playing well defensively for LHS were Allison Sakowski, Rachel Herbst, Elisabeth Finnerty, Cayleigh Kush and Rebecca Marrotta.
Wilson 3, Roy-Hart 0
WILSON — The Lakewomen jumped out to a 1-0 halftime lead and added two more in the second half for a shutout victory over Roy-Hart in a N-O contest on Wednesday evening.
The Lady Rams fall to 5-8 in the league with a game remaining, while Wilson remains undefeated at 11-0-2. Coach Michelle Jennings' Roy-Hart squad will conclude its season in a home contest against rival Medina at Middleport Elementary in Gasport on Friday evening.
Starpoint 1, WSE 1
PENDLETON — Emily Dumond scored for head coach Beth Couch's Lady Spartans, assisted by Lexi Peters.
Newfane 4, Wilson 0
WILSON — Sophomore Chad Gilson had a goal and two assists for head coach Bob Roach's Panthers (9-2-1 N-O, 11-2-1 overall).
Also scoring for the winners were Pat Eadie, Mike Lekanka and John George.
Winning keeper Tyler Ribbeck made three saves to earn the shutout in goal.
Roach said his team will be the top seed in Class B-1 in the upcoming sectional playoffs.
Barker 7, Medina 0
BARKER — Brooke Bodine led the Lady Raiders with two goals, Morgan Brown had two assists, and Barker bounced back from a rare loss to Kenmore East with a resounding victory over Medina in a Niagara-Orleans League game on Thursday afternoon.
Barker jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead on goals by Bodine, Melissa Grosshans, Olivia Denny and Lydia Dewart. Erin Greenwald, Gabby Clare and Bodine rounded out the scoring after the intermission. The Lady Raiders held Medina without a shot on goal.
Barker improves to 10-1 in league play, and will conclude the regular season at home on Tuesday against Roy-Hart, in a Senior Day contest. Medina drops to 2-9 in the league.
Roy-Hart 2, Buff Sem 0
BUFFALO — Cassidy Heschke and Samantha Gordon scored for Roy-Hart, as the Lady Rams won a non-league game on Thursday afternoon.
Haley Moore earned the shutout in net for the Lady Rams, who took a 1-0 halftime lead and held strong after the intermission.
Roy-Hart concludes its season with a road test against Barker on Tu
Akron 5, Newfane 0
AKRON — Claudia Stone led the Lady Tigers with two goals and an assist, as Akron pulled away for a shutout victory in an N-O game on Thursday afternoon.
Tori Triaga earned the shutout in goal for the Lady Tigers, who improve to 8-3 in league play. Newfane concludes its regular season at 4-8.
LHS tandem alternates
NORTH TONAWANDA — Lockport seniors Morgan Haley and Brittany White lost their opening round match at the 2013 NFL Girls Tennis Sectional Qualifying Tournament at Sportsplex.
The Lady Lions were defeated 7-5, 7-6 (11-9) by Kenmore East's Sarah Crissy and Ally Hall.
Despite the loss, Haley and White were named alternates for the sectional tournament. Also qualifying for the VI tournament from Lockport is senior singles player Kathryn Krawczyk.
North Tonawanda's Gretchen Ringler and Jessica Robbins won the event, defeating Kenmore West's Audrey Filey and Rachel Pera in the finals, 7-5, 6-0.
Lockport 104, N. Falls 76
NIAGARA FALLS — The Lady Lions finished their regular season campaign in the NFL on Thursday at 7-1. The Lady Wolverines finished 4-3.
Head coach Larissa McKenna's Lady Lions posted eight different individual winners. They are Megan Tatro (200 free), Kristina Connolly (200 individual medley), Katie Harmon (50 free), Brianna Darnell (diving), Elizabeth Connolly (100 free), Katie Pollock (500 free), Hannah Snow (100 backstroke) and Roserita DiMillo (100 breaststroke).
Jessica Evans won the 100 butterfly for the Lady Wolverines.